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'We won't abandon you' - Ramaphosa stunned by Jagersfontein damage, promises to provide support

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'We won't abandon you' - Ramaphosa stunned by Jagersfontein damage, promises to provide support

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

13th September 2022

By: News24Wire

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One dead, four still missing, more than 50 homes destroyed, scores left displaced, cars overturned on their roofs, and hundreds of animals left for dead. 

This is the bleak image of Jagersfontein in the Free State, after a mining dam wall collapsed and left a trail of destruction. 

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"This was horrific. This was really horrific," an upset President Cyril Ramaphosa said as he made his way through the grey, murky and muddy township of Charlesville on Monday night. 

During Ramaphosa's visit to the area, the grandsons of 75-year-old Anna Lechoko were picking up the pieces of what was once a family home. 

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A TV stood on a black stand as a woman used a shovel to remove the mud from the house. 

Lechoko was rescued by a neighbour when the streams of water flowed through the township early on Sunday morning. 

Her grandson Stephen Majalle pointed to an open piece of area and said: "This is where the neighbour's house used to be... It has been completely destroyed. There is nothing left."

"We are just busy cleaning the house so that we can store all the belongings. Her heart is broken, she wants to come back to see the damage, but we told her to wait until tomorrow."

Before boarding the military chopper which stood in the middle of the main road close to the mine, Ramaphosa conceded to the media that the government moved "slowly", but they would bring other partners onboard to produce "good and positive results". 

"We should be able to handle this disaster relatively well," Ramaphosa said. 

Earlier on Monday, several roads leading to Jagersfontein were closed with flood warning signs. 

Several houses close to the mining dam were damaged. 

According to residents, 10 houses were completely wiped out. Only the foundations remained.

While addressing a packed hall in Ipopeng in Fauresmith on Monday afternoon, Ramaphosa assured locals that government would prioritise assisting residents whose homes and belongings were destroyed.

"We're going to investigate, but for now let us focus on restoring the livelihoods of our people here with immediate effect. This includes businesses. We are also going to look into whose businesses have been affected and how we're going to support [them]," he said.

Ramaphosa said several ministers and MECs were in the area to assess the situation and support residents. Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe was planning to visit on Tuesday. 

Ramaphosa said government officials were not in Jagersfontein for "lip service", but to assess the extent of the damage and dedicate resources accordingly. 

He also expressed concern about matric pupils whose studies will be affected.

"We're not here only for you to see us, but so I can see what happened and the work done by the premier, MEC, municipality, and other organisations that have been helping, and to ensure that we will fix what happened to support you. We won't abandon you," he promised. 

Bloemfontein SPCA inspector Duan Matthee said more than 500 animals were rescued, but some had to be put down.

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